Common Myths About Probate in New York: Separating Fact from Fiction for Queens Clients

Probate can often be misunderstood, surrounded by myths and misconceptions that may lead to confusion or unnecessary concern, especially for residents of Queens, New York. By separating fact from fiction, individuals can gain a clearer understanding of the probate process and make informed decisions when it comes to estate planning. Here are some common myths about probate in New York and the truth behind them:

Myth #1: Probate Is Lengthy and Expensive

Fact: While probate can sometimes be a lengthy process, especially for complex estates, it doesn’t have to be excessively time-consuming or costly. In New York, simplified probate procedures may apply to smaller estates, expediting the process and reducing expenses. Additionally, proper estate planning, such as creating a living trust or utilizing beneficiary designations, can help bypass probate altogether for certain assets, further streamlining the process.

Myth #2: Probate Means Loss of Control over Assets

Fact: Contrary to popular belief, going through probate doesn’t necessarily mean losing control over assets. During probate, the court oversees the distribution of assets according to the deceased’s wishes as outlined in their will or New York intestacy laws if there’s no will. However, individuals can still retain control over their assets during their lifetime and specify their distribution preferences through proper estate planning techniques, such as trusts and beneficiary designations.

Myth #3: Probate Is Public and Invades Privacy

Fact: While probate proceedings are generally a matter of public record, the level of privacy varies depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the estate. In New York, certain documents filed with the Surrogate’s Court, such as the will, inventory of assets, and accounting, may become public record. However, individuals can take steps to maintain privacy, such as creating a revocable living trust, which allows assets to pass to beneficiaries privately outside of probate.

Myth #4: Probate Leads to Family Disputes

Fact: While family disputes can sometimes arise during the probate process, especially if there are disagreements over the validity of the will or distribution of assets, they are not inevitable. Clear communication, proper estate planning, and seeking professional guidance can help mitigate the risk of conflicts among family members. Additionally, New York courts strive to resolve disputes efficiently and fairly to ensure the deceased’s wishes are upheld.

Myth #5: You Don’t Need Estate Planning If You Want to Avoid Probate

Fact: While estate planning can help minimize the need for probate, it serves other important purposes beyond probate avoidance. Estate planning allows individuals to specify their healthcare preferences, appoint guardians for minor children, minimize estate taxes, and protect assets from creditors. Even if probate avoidance is a primary goal, proper estate planning can provide comprehensive protection and peace of mind for individuals and their families.


Understanding the facts about probate is essential for Queens residents in New York. By debunking common myths and misconceptions, individuals can make informed decisions about estate planning and probate avoidance strategies. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can provide guidance tailored to individual circumstances and ensure that estate plans align with the laws and regulations of New York.